The city of Kingston, Ontario (population approximately 125,000) is known for a few things (some of which may be new for you) – was the original capital of Canada from 1841 to 1844; it has the largest concentration of penitentiaries in Canada (9 by last count); it is home to a large post-secondary population (Queen’s University, the Royal Military College, and St. Lawrence College) as well is a destination for retirees; several notable hockey players were born or raised here (Doug Gilmour, Kirk Muller, Ken Linseman); and it has an underrated food scene (you must visit Card’s Bakery, order a chicken salad on croissant at the Golden Rooster Deli, and get a poutine at Bubba’s on King Street).
Musically, the city is best known for being the home of The Tragically Hip, the long-time rock band considered a Canadian institution. In addition, Sarah Harmer got her musical start in Kingston, where she formed Weeping Tile while studying at Queen’s. PS I Love You is emerging as one of the best garage-rock duos in the country. The latest addition to this group is Monuments and Statues, a Hidden Gem.
Last month, the trio of Laura Baker, Mackenzie Bromstad, and Geoff Reith self-released their debut album, Fractals. The album mostly consists of songs that that recall the classic folk scene of the deep south from the early 20th Century, capturing the grassroots sound of the genre – from the plucking of the banjo, the strumming of the acoustic guitar, the light touches of the snare drum, and the two- and three-part harmonies. On tracks like “Oh Great Rose!”, “Speak of The Sea”, and “Life” the trio echo of the beautiful subtleties of The Haden Sisters and The Well Pennies.
There’s a bit of playfulness on songs like “Catch You” and “Red Dress”. It’s an approach used by more recent indie-folk bands, such as The Wild Reeds and PHOX. But where the band really shines is on the songs where the trio expands their musical palette. Taking a dream-folk approach, “Spiral Tunnel” is a stunning track. But the highlight of the album is “Galafax”, a gorgeous, lush song that recalls the mesmerizing quality of another Hidden Gem, New Zealand duo French For Rabbits.
Monuments and Statues‘ Fractals is like a time capsule through the history of folk music. It showcases the down-to-the-earth, simple beauty of the genre while demonstrating that folk music can also be atmospheric and move your mind and soul. For a trio whose name is dedicated to historical, inanimate objects, they’ve brought a new life and contemporary appeal to a classical genre.
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